The Federal Pell Grant Program provides billions of dollars in financial aid to college students in need of assistance, but these grants — and other aid — could disappear or be made worthless if proposals by Congress and the Trump administration are enacted.
The Federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based grants to low-income students to help pay for college.
Last week, the House of Representatives voted 219 to 206 to pass a 126-page congressional budget resolution [PDF] for fiscal year 2018 that would reduce education and workforce spending by $20 billion over the next nine years.
The bill came just days after the Senate Committee on the Budget passed its own budget resolution [PDF], that would keep much of the current funding levels steady.
The House Bill
Specific details of the House bill’s education cuts were not immediately available, as the resolution directs the Committee on Education and Workforce to submit changes in laws within its jurisdiction to realize the $20 billion reduction.
That House plan eliminates all $78.5 billion of mandatory funding for Pell Grants. Mandatory funding currently covers over $1,000 (nearly one-fifth) of the current maximum grant.
Under that measure the government would also rescind $3.3 billion of the total $8.5 billion Pell surplus and freeze the maximum Pell Grant award at $5,920.
According to the report accompanying the House bill, there are several ways to realize cuts to the Pell Grant program.
For instance, the report suggests that the government could roll back certain expansions to the program to ensure that aid is available to student with the mot needs.
The government could also eliminate eligibility for less-than-half-time students or the administrative fees paid to schools that administer and disturb grants to students.
The report also calls for freezing the maximum award level to $5,920. If this were to continue, by 2026, the grants would cover just 23% of an individual’s education.
More Harm Than Good
Though the relevant House committees have not yet provided specifics on how they intend to make the cuts required by the budget resolution, consumer advocates contend that any cuts of this size will likely harm Americans looking to attend college.
If the budget moves forward with cutting mandatory funding for the Pell Grant program, The Institute for College Access and Success notes it would force “millions of low- and moderate-income students to borrow more, drop out, or forgo college altogether.”
TICAS had previously estimated that the proposed $3.3 billion cut was equivalent to the average Pell Grant award for nearly 900,000 students.
“In passing its budget resolution, the House has advanced a vision wholly out of step with the needs of our nation’s students and economy,” TICAS said in a statement.
Consumer advocates weren’t alone in expressing displeasure for the House bill, lawmakers were too. Washington Representative Rick Larsen said in a statement last week that the measure “misses the mark” on many fronts.
“Without a serious investment in job training, infrastructure, or higher education, this budget fundamentally misses the mark as a blueprint for America’s priorities,” Larsen said.